John and I started ReaderLinks for one simple reason. We wanted our journey as authors to be successful.

When he started building tools to manage tweets, links and book data we knew he was onto something. Early in our author careers we realized that one of the big problems we kept running into was lack of clarity. How could we see the big picture? What boiled-down data could we focus on to make progress in our writing careers?

Fast forward to today. ReaderLinks is now a service that provides trackable geo-links, ARC team management, sales reports, estimated profitable ACoS, read-thru, sell-thru and more.John wrote three Help posts that covered one of the most useful features — the ability to work with Facebook to help define your audience.

I thought the posts would make a great guide for beginners and pros alike. So enough chatter. On with the good stuff!

Create Custom Audiences on Facebook (with ReaderLinks’ assistance)

According to Facebook, a custom audience is an ad targeting option that lets you find people who already know about your business on Facebook.

Hold on a sec, if there is a person who just happened to stumble on my book on Amazon, bought it, read it, and then clicked to jump to my site to see more…how does Facebook know they know about my business?

Because the link that was clicked by that person contained a particular URL. When you create a custom audience on Facebook, one of the things you do is specify where you want Facebook to snag the customers from. Well, you have the URL they visited and you have a Facebook pixel connected to that URL. That means that you can tell Facebook that anyone who visited that specific URL is a customer who knows about your business.

Over the course of a couple months of Facebook ads, clicks from the backs of your books, tweets that take people to your pages, Facebook posts you’ve made, and so on…you should have a solid number of people for a custom audience.

It gets better, though.

You can hook people to different audience based on circumstances. Using ReaderLinks, for example, you can specify which of our URLs to connect to events.

Let’s take a few different circumstances:

1 – Facebook ad to get people to sign up to your newsletter
2 – Facebook ad to get people to buy your box set
3 – A person clicking to review your book from the back of your book
4 – A person clicking from the back of your book to buy the next book
5 – A person clicking from the back of your book to check out your site

Should all of these go to the same custom audience? Let me break it down in a different way.

1 – Facebook ad to get people to sign up to your newsletter (potential freebie-seeker, cold reader)
2 – Facebook ad to get people to buy your box set (cold reader)
3 – A person clicking to review your book from the back of your book (warm reader who may also be a reviewer)
4 – A person clicking from the back of your book to buy the next book (warm reader)
5 – A person clicking from the back of your book to check out your site (warm reader)

So we don’t want them all going to the same custom audience.

That person in option 1 is likely just a freebie-seeker who will never read your book. However, they could become a ravenous fan as well, but we’ll learn that over the course of time in our newsletter onboarding and such. For now, though, we want them on their own custom audience…or, likely more appropriately, no custom audience at all.

The second reader is an option, but since we have no direct way of knowing if they purchased the book or not, we’re still on the fence with them until they demonstrate warm readership.

Reader 3 could be great, assuming they gave a good review. If they hate us, well…we don’t want them targeted! But if they’re great, then we definitely want them around.

Readers 4 and 5 are definitely on the target list.

There are many more options for this:

1 – Reader clicks a new release notification from your author page.
2 – Reader clicks to buy discount-only books from your newsletter.
3 – Reader clicks from your Twitter blast to check out your free promotion.
4 – Audiobook listener clicks the “But on Audible” link from your webpage.
5 – Person clicks on your Facebook ad for your audiobook.
etc.

If you create individual links for each of these primary items, you can home in on your specific readership.

But before we get into specifics about how to take advantage of all this, let’s start with how Facebook and ReaderLinks can help you define your audience and make better decisions with your resources.

To make all of this work, you need to set up a Facebook Pixel on Facebook.

A Pixel

A pixel is that tiny little dot you see on your TV, computer screen, smart phone, etc. It can be multiple colors and can even have transparency added to it. Combine a bunch of them together and you get an image.

Nerd Note

The term “pixel” is an abbreviation for Picture Element.

A Tracking Pixel

A tracking pixel is a small piece of code that sends customer information to some server somewhere.

Examples:

  • a company who builds products for specific browsers (e.g. Firefox or Chrome) may send back information about the kind of browser you’re visiting their site with.
  • an advertiser wants to have all access to your page reported back to their server so they ask for their pixel to be installed on your server.
  • a company wants to know where people are clicking the most on their website, so they send back information with each click so they can build a data model.

What do pixels and tracking pixels have to do with each other?

A tracking pixel is a small piece of code that sends customer information to some server somewhere.

In order for a tracking pixel to work, it needs to be fired off.

Yeah, neat, but how does that happen?

To load up an image on a website, you have to provide a URL.

<img src=”http://somewebsite.com/images/myimage.jpg” />

The Dreaded Broken Image

Have you ever seen one of those broken images on a webpage? Those happen because either the image was renamed, removed, not given proper permissions, etc.

But, wait…if you can get a broken image when loading up remote URL, can’t you just put anything in that URL field that you want?

Yep.

So, what if we did this:

<img src=”http://somewebsite.com/store-some-data?browser=firefox&country=us” />

The webpage would show a broken image, but that “somewebsite” website is going to now know some information about the person who just landed on the site.

That’s when someone thought how useful this is, but wanted to do it in such a way as to not show that broken image. They started with a simple:

<img src=”http://somewebsite.com/store-some-data?browser=firefox&country=us” width=”1″ height=”1″ />

…making a 1×1 PIXEL! w00t.

Too bad that doesn’t really work. The browsers still show a big-ass broken image icon.

However, you CAN set the image to be hidden.

That’s when you get something like this…

<img src=”http://somewebsite.com/store-some-data?browser=firefox&country=us” style=”width: 1px; height: 1px; display:none;” />

That’s a little overkill, but basically what it’s saying is this: Build me a 1×1 image that is hidden, and send data back to my server with information about this person.

You can do a lot with this because you can squeeze a bunch of javascript code into those little guys.

For example, Facebook users have a ton of crap on their browsers from Facebook. They keep track of the pages you’re on, your Facebook User ID, etc. They know way too much about you. Fortunately, they also know way too much about our readers.

So when you have a Facebook pixel tracker on your site and someone goes to your site, Facebook is going to snag as much information about that person as possible and send it back to their server. Now, you don’t get to see all that information, but you don’t need to see it. What you need is for Facebook to use that information to allow the building of a custom audience.

Nerd Note

If you want to be extra sure it’s not going to spontaneously appear, you can add “left:-10px” or some value to the style and hide the image off the screen.

You’ll need to have a Facebook Pixel running for this to work, which you can create on the Facebook Ads Manager. Here is a link to the Facebook help page for creating your own pixel: https://www.facebook.com/business/help/952192354843755

How to set up a Custom Audience with ReaderLinks

One of the cool things you can do with ReaderLinks links is use them for helping to create custom audiences in Facebook.

There are two ways that the Facebook Pixel will fire off with ReaderLinks links:

  • By using the ReaderLinks plugin on a WordPress site where your Facebook Pixel is already configured to run.
  • By using ReaderLinks links after placing your Facebook Pixel ID in the Pen Name Settings area of ReaderLinks.

After you have set up your Facebook Pixel and have it running effectively with ReaderLinks, give it a few days to start accumulating data. This will require you to share links, do ads, send tweets, etc. using your ReaderLinks links, of course.

Once data is showing up on your Facebook Pixel page, you can create a custom audience using that data.

Here’s how…

Step 1: Go into the Facebook Ads Manager, into the All Tools section, and click the Audiences link under the Assets column.

Step 2: Click the dropdown for Create Audience and select the Custom Audience option.

Step 3: Select the Website Traffic option.

Step 4: Set the number of days in the past you want to collect data for and change the All Website Visitors dropdown to People Who Visited Specific Web Pages.

Step 5: Jump to the ReaderLinks book page that you want to build this audience for. Then, click on the Book Links tab and identify the links you want to track. You’ll need to copy the ID numbers for each of these links.

Step 6: Paste the IDs one at a time (pressing the spacebar after each) and make sure that you have the condition set to ‘or’ here. Setting it to ‘or’ will allow Facebook to build the audience off multiple IDs.

Step 7: Give the Audience a name that’s easily identifiable for you. I personally put the book name and note that it’s related to my ReaderLinks links.

Once your done, click the Create Audience field and wait for Facebook to build the audience for you. This can take quite a while, but Facebook will notify you when it’s all set!

Note: If you haven’t accumulated enough clicks for your audience, you will likely get an error from Facebook saying that the audience is too small. This just means you either need to increase the number of clicks, wait a little while longer, or both.

To make things easier, we’ve added the ability to go into any link on ReaderLinks and set a common identifier. So, if you have 20 books and you don’t want to have to add the URL data for each of those 20 books one that person who clicked the review link at the end of your book…you can just add a common identifier that will be tracked by Facebook for all similar links.

For example, if you have 10 books in a series and you put a link at the end of each to get someone to buy the next in line…you have a number of links to contend with. Book 1 points to book 2, which points to book 3, etc.

Wouldn’t it be swell to have a way where you can just put in a single value to track all those links?

That’s where Common Identifiers come in.

Taking our example above, and using my Paranormal Police Department series, I would create a bunch of links to sell readers through. Instead of having to keep track of each ReaderLinks link, though, I’m going to assign a Common Identifier. This is just an alphanumeric value that I create, that makes sense to me for the purpose of its use.

So, I’ll just grab the acronym for Paranormal Police Department and tack on Book Back Sale.

That gives me: ppd-bbs 

Now, I’ll edit each link that I want to attach that value to, and save it out.

I’m also going to tell ReaderLinks that I want it to create a page event for that ppd-bbs value so that I don’t have to remember to put it on the link. Plus, this will allow me to gain the benefit of the Common Identifier without having to republish my current links!

Using Common Identifiers to get Custom Audiences

Once you start using this feature, Facebook will begin storing the pixel information.

Note that if you are using the links method only, it will not store page events. If you use page events only, it will not store link events. You can use both though, without a problem.

If you are building an audience via link events, follow this image for details:

If you are using page events, instead, then follow this image:

I haven’t seen a way to combine the two, so I would recommend always having page events on and using that method. It’s a catch-all that way.

How to use ReaderLinks links in Facebook ads

If you have installed the ReaderLinks WordPress plugin, you’ll be able to use your own WordPress website domain to share your links. If you don’t have a WordPress site, you can use the standard ReaderLinks links.

What you may not know is that these are completely interchangeable, meaning that you can use either type of link. They’ll function precisely the same as far as what they do, but the standard ReaderLinks link will be much faster than the WordPress one.

This is because WordPress is notoriously slow at loading. Plus, the more plugins you use on your WordPress site, the slower it’s going to get. Couple that with inexpensive web hosting and you could be looking at 5+ seconds before your site even loads. That’s a long time to expect a person to wait for a link to load!

Some advertisers may penalize you due to slow load times, too. While it’s not yet been verified, some authors have reported that they believe Amazon has been feeding their ads more slowly because of long load times.

Fortunately, ReaderLinks is there for you to help speed up the redirection time while still giving you geolocation (making sure the reader goes to the proper service page for their country), link tracking, and even the Facebook Audience Pixel.

And now we make it easy for you to select between the WordPress ReaderLinks Link and the Standard ReaderLinks Link.

Now, you may be concerned with putting a Standard ReaderLinks Link on a Facebook ad, but remember that Facebook will check the link and put the destination page as the URL for the ad. Just be sure to leave the Display Link portion of the Facebook Ad blank so that Facebook will get the resultant URL for you.

Our testing shows that sometimes Facebook will not resolve the readerlinks.com URL to the destination site. Here’s an image that shows that…

If that happens to you, fill in the Display Link field with the name of the destination service and submit the ad for approval. It may or may not be approved, but I have done three ads today with this pointing to amazon.com (as the Display Link) and they were all approved.The worst case scenario is that you either go back to your WordPress ReaderLinks URL for these or you allow the ad to display readerlinks.com.

The good news is that we are authors here, so ‘readerlinks.com’ is a pretty decent URL for readers to click! 😉

Lookalike (LAL) Audiences

Even cooler, after you’ve built a custom audience, you can ask Facebook to scour their userbase in an effort to find people who are most similar to those on your custom audience list. In other words, you’re going to be growing your ACTUAL demographic. On top of that, Facebook updates that list (including preening and adding new people) every 30 days or so. Over time, that LAL audience is going to get tighter.

Nerd Note

You can (and should) use multiple LAL audiences based off different custom audiences. Just like anything, tweak tweak tweak!

We hope this post helps you get your head around pixels, custom audiences and how ReaderLinks can help you define and reach your ideal readers.

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